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August 9, 2018

County and Municipal Government Reform and Shared Services

New Jersey has taken steps to encourage municipal shared service agreements and joint meetings in order to better achieve economies of scale. In 2007, New Jersey established The Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) to study and report on the structure and functions of county and municipal government. One of LUARCC’s primary responsibilities was to determine the appropriate allocation of service delivery responsibilities from the standpoint of efficiency. However, with LUARCC having failed to fulfill that mission, New Jersey currently lacks a coordinated effort to identify the level at which key services can be provided most efficiently.

Recommendations:

  • Re-establish the Legislature’s County and Local Government Study Commission which disbanded in 1992 and consolidate it with LUARCC.
  • Authorize the Commission to undertake a study of shared services to identify the proper size, scale and level of government at which various services – from 911 calls to code enforcement to health services — can be delivered most efficiently and cost-effectively and make recommendations for legislation based on those analyses.
  • Reestablish a program within the Division of Local Government Services to effectively promote and encourage shared services and the recommendations of the Commission.
  • Require the merger of municipal courts with small caseloads, as recommended by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Municipal Court Operations, Fines, and Fees, and develop proposals to address other issues raised by that committee.
  • Create a Property Tax Assessment Study Commission to study the State’s tax assessment practices and make recommendations for countywide or regional tax assessment to ensure consistency and efficiency.
  • Require municipalities, their board(s) of education and any local authorities to meet at least twice a year to discuss shared services and other matters of mutual concern and encourage these groups to meet with their neighboring entities for the same purpose.
  • Require shared service agreements to have alternate dispute resolution provisions, performance evaluation criteria, a formula-based or defined negotiating process for fee schedules and exit provisions.
  • Prioritize resolving how civil service and tenure issues get managed when local units want to share service.
  • Authorize county governments to provide the full range of local police services (in full or in part) to help municipalities lower their costs.
  • Encourage “joint meetings” for public service agencies and change name to “regional service agencies.”
  • Allow municipalities and counties to provide their annual audits using the national standard governmental accounting report (GASB or GAAP) in lieu of the current annual audit in order to facilitate uniformity.
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